Identity theft and fraud

What is identity theft?

Identity theft refers to the preparatory stage of acquiring and collecting someone else’s personal information for criminal purposes. Identity theft techniques can range from unsophisticated, such as dumpster diving and mail theft, to more elaborate schemes, such as phishing, job scams, loan scams, service scams, tax scams, bank investigator scams, and investment scams. Computer spywares and viruses, designed to help thieves acquire personal information, are an emerging trend.

More information on these and other scams can be found under Fraud types.

Warning signs – How to protect yourself

  • Identity theft can occur over the Internet, telephone, via fax or regular mail. You should be particularly wary of unsolicited e-mails, text messages, telephone calls or mail attempting to extract personal or financial information from you.
  • Periodically check your credit reports, bank and credit card statements and report any irregularities promptly to the relevant financial institution and to the credit bureau.
  • During transactions, if you must hand over your card, never lose sight of it.
  • Always shield your personal identification number when using an ATM or a PIN pad.
  • Memorize all personal identification numbers for payment cards and telephone calling cards. Never write them on the cards.
  • Familiarize yourself with billing cycles for your credit and debit cards.
  • Trash bins are a goldmine for identity thieves. Make sure you shred personal and financial documents before putting them in the garbage.
  • When you change your address, make sure you notify the post office and all relevant financial institutions (your bank and credit card companies).

What is identity fraud?

Identity fraud is the actual deceptive use of the identity information of another person (living or dead) in connection with various frauds (including impersonating another person and the misuse of debit or credit card data).

Criminals can use your stolen or reproduced personal or financial information to

  • Access your computer/email
  • Access your bank accounts
  • Open new bank accounts
  • Transfer bank balances
  • Apply for loans, credit cards and other goods and services
  • Make purchases
  • Hide their criminal activities
  • Obtain passports or receive government benefits

Minimize the criminal’s opportunities to obtain your personal information. Making yourself a harder target is the best defense. If you are a victim, do not panic, in most cases you will not be out any money.

While you probably can’t prevent identity fraud entirely, you can minimize your risk. Identity fraud is on the rise and it can happen to anyone. By managing your personal information wisely, cautiously and with an awareness, you can help guard yourself against identity fraud.

Warning signs – How to protect yourself

  • A creditor informs you that an application for credit was received with your name and address, however you never applied.
  • Telephone calls or letters indicate you have been approved or denied by a creditor for which you never applied.
  • You receive credit card statements or other bills for account you do not hold.
  • You are missing mail you regularly receive (credit card statements, banking statements).
  • A collection agency informs you they are collecting for a defaulted account established with your identity and you never opened the account.